Travel CEOs join forces to demand improvements in COVID-19 testing

Fourteen CEOs of America’s most recognizable travel-related companies sent a letter to the president and congressional leaders this week stating that more and better COVID-19 testing is an indispensable component of pursuing an economic recovery, and urging a stepped-up federal role in making effective testing more widely available. The letter stresses that a sustained recovery will depend on a comprehensive set of measures to provide relief, protection and stimulus for U.S. employers, but says that testing should be incorporated in the next legislative package — specifically the TEST Act that has been introduced in the Senate. “The travel industry has aggressively gathered data on the coronavirus outbreak and its fallout in order to inform our exhaustive deliberations on best health practices, trends and attitudes among travel consumers, and the proper timing of a safe reopening of the American travel economy,” the letter reads in part. “Analysis of the data leads to the conclusion that broader testing—in concert with other key factors such as a robust federal policy framework of relief and stimulus, rigorous health and safety standards adopted by travel-related businesses, and the universal embrace of good health practices (such as the wearing of masks) by the public—is an essential component of reopening and recovery. “Testing enables reopening. Testing enables rehiring. Testing enables recovery.” The letter was signed by: Heather McCrory of Accor North America, Inc.; David Kong of BWH Hotel Group; Pat Pacious of Choice Hotels International, Inc.; Chrissy Taylor of Enterprise Holdings, Inc.; Chris Nassetta of Hilton; Jim Risoleo of Host Hotels & Resorts; Mark Hoplamazian of Hyatt Hotels Corporation; George Markantonis of Las Vegas Sands Corporation; Elie Maalouf of InterContinental Hotels Group; Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels & Co; Arne Sorenson of Marriott International; Sean Menke of Sabre Corporation; Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association; and Geoff Ballotti of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. The letter refers to a white paper produced by the U.S. Travel Association that details the industry’s findings with regard to the importance of testing, and why the TEST Act would be a good legislative step toward the necessary broadening of the availability of testing. What’s your take on all of this?  Do you agree with the sentiments of the letter? Is rigorous testing key to tourism’s recovery?

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Government, both local and national, has been slow to realise how economically important the travel industry has become. Throughout the world it provides jobs and a living for millions of employees and their families. If much of the travel industry disappears it will have severe economic consequences for both local and national economies.

    The time has certainly come for joined-up thinking on measures to make increasing amounts of travel a low-risk possibility. Without doubt, implementing far greater levels of testing would be a major leap forward in facilitating more travel.

  2. I’m not sure it’ll be key to the recovery of the tourism industry but I do definitely think more rigorous testing is needed across the board. Surely testing prior to travel and upon return, plus a week following return, could help cut the spread from those travelling and reduce the need for 14 day quarantine periods. Given how things are going with infection rates dropping then creeping back up, I don’t think this virus will be contained and wrapped up any time soon. It’s seeming more likely that a vaccine is the only way out and back to the pre-covid normality we now miss so desperately. I’m glad these CEOs are making a stand and pushing for the testing though. I think it’s something all countries allowing incoming and outbound travel need to be doing, so hopefully governments we start to see the urgent need for its increase.

    1. Yeah, it’s a pleasant surprise to see this. It shows me that there has been quite a lack of involvment in getting adequate testing to the population. That seems to be one one of the most crucial aspects in getting the virus under control. I mean, it’s even more challenging when you don’t know where and how the virus is spreading. So I’m still in favor of more widespread testing.

  3. Theses travel leaders put together a powerful case especially with that powerful triple:

    “Testing enables reopening. Testing enables rehiring. Testing enables recovery.”

    But we know that even if someone submits a negative test today then there is a window before infection. They could show symptoms on the next day. I don’t want to sound negative as testing would undoubtedly reveal many people who were infected but we need to appreciate that it is not foolproof.

    I’m not sure that many people are fully aware of how vital the travel market is. If 2020 had progressed as normal the global travel market would have probably been worth a figure approaching 9 trillion US dollars. Taking much of that away will leave a massive hole in the world economy. Testing is a small price to pay for trying to salvage what’s left of the world’s travel industry.

    1. When you say 9 trillion US$ it strikes home as to how large the travel industry is. I don’t think people understand how dependent we are on its euros, dollars, pounds and yen etc.

      I went into London last week and was horrified to see that it was virtually a ghost town.

      The travel industry needs all the help that it can get.

    2. That’s really a sad thought, I think one of the most difficult things has been seeing what this pandemic has done to local businesses. And that’s the whole point of that letter in my opinion. Someone needed to take a stand.

  4. It’s good to see the travel industry coming together, “United we stand, divided we fall” and all that.

    It’s rare for the travel industry to be threatened by a common enemy. Hopefully working together may bring a spirit of cooperation and collaboration for the future. Often a crisis brings out the best in people.

  5. The problem I keep hearing with testing is not really the lack of testing kits, but the capacity of diagnostic centers which processes the tests. That’s why it’s been taking so long to get the results. From just a couple of days, test results are now taking at least 5 days and even longer for some areas. That’s too much time if you consider how these people can still go about their ways while waiting for the result of their test.

    1. I’ve been seeing the same thing by a lot of people posting it on different social media! This is very hard to believe, that countries in the West need to wait so long for test results. I’m glad to see some responsible people stepping in to have their voices heard.

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